Former Sabres F Sam Reinhart excited for fresh start with Panthers


Buffalo Sabres Sam Reinhart (23) celebrates his second goal during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Boston Bruins, Friday, April 23, 2021, in Buffalo, N.Y. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Two down, one to go.

The Sabres traded defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen on Friday then the second of that veteran trio we’ve been watching left on Saturday as Sam Reinhart is now on his way to the Florida Panthers.

But the return was very underwhelming compared to what we saw Buffalo get in return for Ristolainen just a day earlier. In exchange for Reinhart, the Sabres got goaltender Devon Levi and a 2022 first-round pick.

So the Sabres get a first-round pick next year that could get moved to 2023 if the pick is in the top ten. Then there’s the player they got, another prospect. The Panthers drafted Levi in the seventh-round in 2020 which it seems for a guy like Reinhart, they should have gotten an NHL player.

On the other hand, Florida is getting Buffalo’s leading scorer from last season and Reinhart’s getting a fresh start.

“Pretty stressful, it was a unique position that I’ve never been in. As a hockey player you’re more used to playing than the actual business side of it so pretty stressful but obviously thrilled with how everything went down and was worth the stress for me,” Reinhart said on a zoom call with reporters Saturday.

Reinhart led the Sabres with 25 goals and 40 points in 54 games last year, significantly stepping up during Jack Eichel’s absence. During his career, he scored 134 goals and tallied 161 points in 454 games. Reinhart also showed consistency scoring 20 or more goals in five of his six seasons, all of which he spent with Buffalo.

“I’m thrilled about having that opportunity with a group that is expecting to win on any given night so I’m very happy to be able to showcase what I can do in some meaningful games and contribute in any way that I can,” Reinhart said.

That’s something he did not experience with the Sabres, the ability to win on any given night. Buffalo drafted Reinhart second overall in 2014 and never came close to playing in the postseason.

The Sabres also never got a long-term deal done with Reinhart during his time in Buffalo. Rather he signed a two-year contract in September of 2018 ($3.65 million average annual value) then signed a one-year, $5.2 million deal in October as a restricted free agent.

“It was a tough spot to be in. For me I feel I’ve been there a long time. I’ve truly given it everything I could have. For whatever reason my contract situation has led to this point. I had always been prepared to sign long-term but the reality of the situation was, it was kind of led to this where there was some decisions that had to be made,’ Reinhart explained.

“It was a tough spot to be in for a city that has given me so much over six, seven or however many years it’s been and I truly feel like I had been committed and done everything that was asked and really unfortunate that it didn’t work out the way that anybody wanted or envisioned. Moving forward really looking forward to a fresh start down in Florida.”

When it comes to those contract talks and whether or not he requested a trade, Reinhart wanted to keep those discussions in-house.

“What goes on behind closed doors is behind closed doors for a reason. There was a lot of honest discussions at the end of the year with me and I’m sure a number of players. My relationship with Kevyn [Adams] is not tarnished in any way. I’ve respected him, I’ve known him for a lot more years than he’s been the general manager,” Reinhart said.

“I think it was just timing and a position where like I said, I’ve been there a long time and I’ve been committed every day I’ve been part of the organization to helping the team try and win. It’s been unfortunate that my contracts have been so short and it’s kind of led to a point where some decisions had to be made.”

Now we wait to see what happens with Jack Eichel as two out of the three players who weren’t expected to be with the Sabres at the start of next season have already left.

“I’m a competitor, I want to win and right now I’m thrilled to be a part of an organization with aspirations to make it to the next level right now and I’m just looking forward to contributing in any way,” Reinhart said.

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